The Mystery of the Sea/Chapter 20



"I want you to promise me that you will not hide yourself where I cannot find you. I have grave reason for the request. Also, I want you, if you will, to let some others know where you are." At first there was instinctive defiance in her mouth and nostrils. Then her brows wrinkled in thought; the sequence was an index to character which I could not but notice. However the war was not long; reason, whatever was the outcome of its dominance, triumphed over impulse. I thought I could understand the logical process which led to her spoken conclusion:

"You want to report me to 'Uncle Sam'."

"That's about it!" I answered, and hurried on to give her a reason before she made up her mind to object.

"Remember, my dear, that your nation is at war; and, though you are at present safe in a country friendly to both belligerents, there are evil-minded people in all countries who will take advantage of anything unusual, to work their own ends. That splendid gift of yours to the nation, while it has made you a public favourite and won for you millions of friends—and proposals—has yet made for you a host of enemies. It is not as if you had given a hospital-ship or an ambulance. Your gift belongs to the war side and calls out active hatred; and no doubt there are men banded together to do you harm. This cannot be allowed. Your friends, and the nation as a whole, would take any step to prevent such a thing; but they might all be powerless if you were hidden anywhere where they could not find you." As I spoke, Marjory looked at me keenly, not with hostility, but with genuine interest. When I had finished she said quietly:

"That is very well; but now tell me, dear"—how the word thrilled me; it was the first time she had used it to me—"did Sam Adams fill you up with that argument, or is it your own? Don't think me nasty; but I want to know something of what is going on. Believe me, I am willing to do all you wish if it is your own will; and I am grateful for your thought for me. But I don't want you to be a mere mouthpiece for any party moves by the politicians at home."

"How do you mean?"

"My dear boy, I don't suppose you know enough of American politics to see how a certain lot would use to their own advantage anything that came in their way. Anybody or anything which the public takes an interest in would be, and is, used by them unscrupulously. Why, if the hangers-on to the war party wanted to make a show, they might enroll my proposers and start a new battalion."

"But," I remonstrated, "you don't think the Government is like that?" In reply she smiled:

"I don't altogether know about that. Parties are parties all the world over. But of course the Washington people wouldn't do things that are done by local politicians. And one other thing. Don't imagine for a moment that I think Sam Adams is anything of the kind. He belongs to the service of the nation and takes his orders from his chief. How can he, or any one fixed like him, know the ins and outs of things; except from what he hears privately from home, or gathers from what goes on around him if he is cute?" It appeared to me that all this was tending to establish an argument against taking the American Embassy into confidence, so I struck in before it should be complete. As I was not at liberty to take Marjory into confidence with regard to my source of information, I had to try to get her to agree to what I thought right or necessary on other grounds:

"My dearest, can you not leave out politics, American or otherwise. What on earth have politics to do with us?" She opened her eyes in wonder; she was reasoning better than I was. With an air of conviction she said:

"Why, everything! If any one wants to do me harm, it must be on the grounds of politics. I don't believe there is any one in the world who could want to injure me on private grounds. Oh! my dear, I don't want to talk about it, not even to you; but all my life I have tried to help other people in a quiet way. My guardians would tell you that I have asked them for too much money to give to charities; and personally I have tried to do what a girl can in a helpful way to others. I have been in hospitals and homes of all kinds; and I have classes of girls in my own house and try to make them happier and better. Archie, don't think poorly of me for speaking like this; but I couldn't bear that you should think I had no sense of the responsibility of great wealth. I have always looked on it as a trust; and I hope, my dear, that in time to come you will help me to bear the burden and to share the trust!" I had thought up to now that I couldn't love her more than I did. But when I heard her words, and recognised the high purpose that lay behind them, and saw the sweet embarrassment which came to her in speaking them to me, I felt that I had been mistaken. She looked at me lovingly, and, holding my hand in both of hers, went on:

"What then could hurt me except it came from the political side. I could quite understand it if Spaniards wished to harm me, for I have done what I can to hinder them from murdering and torturing other victims. And I could understand if some of our own low-down politicians would try to use me as a stalking horse, though they wouldn't harm me. I want to keep clear of politics; and I tell you frankly that I shall if I can."

"But Marjory dear, there may be, I believe there are, Spaniards who would try to harm you. If you were in America you would be safer from them; for there at present, whilst the war is on, every stranger is a marked man. Here, on neutral ground, foreigners are free; and they are not watched and observed in the same way. If there were such fiends, and I am told there are, they might do you a harm before any one could know their intention or have time to forestall them."

All the native independence of Marjory's race and nature stood out in strong relief as she answered me:

"My dear Archie, I come from a race of men who have held their lives in their hands from the cradle to the grave. My father, and my grandfather, and my great grandfather were pioneers in Illinois, in Kentucky, in the Rockies and California. They knew that there were treacherous foes behind them every hour of their lives; and yet they were not afraid. And I am not afraid either. Their blood is in my veins, and speaks loudly to me when any sense of fear comes near me. Their brains, as well as their hands, kept guard on their lives; and my brains are like theirs. I do not fear any foe, open or secret. Indeed, when I think of a secret foe all the keenness of my people wakes in me, and I want to fight. And this secret work is a way in which a woman can fight in an age like ours. If my enemies plot, I can counter-plot; if they watch without faltering to catch me off guard, I can keep guard unflinchingly. A woman can't go out now-a-days, except at odd times, and fight with weapons like Joan of Arc, or the Maid of Saragossa; but she can do her fighting in her own way, level with her time. I don't see that if there is to be danger around me, why I shouldn't do as my ancestors did, fight harder than their foes. Here! let me tell you something now, that I intended to say later. Do you know what race of men I come from? Does my name tell you nothing? If not, then this will!"

She took from her neck, where again it had been concealed by a lace collar, the golden jewel which I had rescued from the sea. As I took it in my hand and examined it she went on:

"That came to me from my father, who got it from his, and he from his, on and on till our story of it, which is only verbal, for we have no records, is lost in the legend that it is a relic of the Armada brought to America by two cousins who had married, both being of the family to which the great Sir Francis Drake belonged. I didn't know, till lately, and none of us ever did, where exactly in the family the last owners of the brooch came in, or how they became possessed of such a beautiful jewel. But you have told me in your translation of Don de Escoban's narrative. That was the jewel that Benvenuto Cellini made in duplicate when he wrought the figurehead for the Pope's galley. The Pope gave it to Bernardino de Escoban, and he gave it to Admiral Pedro de Valdes. I have been looking up the history of the time since I saw you, and I found that Admiral de Valdes when he was taken prisoner by Sir Francis Drake at the fight with the Armada was kept, pending his ransom, in the house of Richard Drake, kinsman of Sir Francis. How the Drake family got possession of the brooch I don't know; but anyhow I don't suppose they stole it. They were a kindly lot in private, any of them that I ever knew; though when they were in a fight they fought like demons. The old Spanish Dons were generous and free with their presents, and I take it that when Pedro de Valdes got his ransom he made the finest gift he could to those who had been kind to him. That is the way I figure it out."

Whilst she was speaking, thoughts kept crowding in upon me. Here was indeed the missing link in the chain of Marjory's connection with the hidden treasure; and here was the beginning of the end of Gormala's prophecy, for as such I had come to regard it. The Fates were at work upon us. Clotho was spinning the thread which was to enmesh Marjory and myself and all who were in the scheme of the old prophecy of the Mystery of the Sea and its working out.

Once more the sense of impotence grew upon me. We were all as shuttlecocks, buffeted to and fro without power to alter our course. With the thought came that measure of resignation which is the anodyne to despair. In a sort of trance of passivity I heard Marjory's voice run on:

"Therefore, my dear Archie, I will trust to you to help me. The comradeship which has been between us, will never through this grow less; though nearer and dearer and closer ties may seem to overshadow it."

I could not answer such reasoning; but I took her in my arms and kissed her. I understood, as she did, that my kisses meant acquiescence in her wishes. After a while I said to her:

"One thing I must do. I owe it as a duty of honour to tell my informant that I am unable to give your address to the American Embassy, and that I cannot myself take a part in anything which is to be done except by your consent. But oh! my dear, I fear we are entering on a dangerous course. We are all staying deliberately in the dark, whilst there is light to be had; and we shall need all the light which we can get." Then a thought struck me and I added, "By the way, I suppose I am free to give information how I can, so long as you are not committed or compromised?" She thought for quite a few minutes before she answered. I could see that she was weighing up the situation, and considering it from all points of view. Then she said, putting both her hands in mine:

"In this, as in all ways, Archie, I know that I can trust you. There is so much more than even this between us, that I should feel mean to give it a thought hereafter!"